The long-rumored geolocation « check-in » feature at Facebook is slated to debut within weeks, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNET.
It’s going to take the form of an application programming interface (API) for third-party companies on the Facebook developer platform, integrating existing « check-in » start-ups more deeply into the massive social-networking service and in turn permitting location-aware data to become a part of existing platform applications.
Facebook declined to provide much detail. « We are working on location features and product integrations, which we’ll be launching in the coming months, and we’ll share more details when appropriate, » spokesman Larry Yu told CNET.
Among developers, too, Facebook is still being tight-lipped regarding the exact nature of the service; the API work has not yet been finalized, though one source in the developer community said that engineers at Facebook « are building it out hard-core » at the moment. Another source hinted that the internal development deadline may be as early as next week, but that Facebook has not been clear about whether this will be reached on time or extended.
At least one start-up in the geolocation space was told by a Facebook insider that it might want to think about changing the language of a thumbs-up type of feature to « like, » possibly preparing for integration of Facebook’s ubiquitous « like » buttons.
Sources say that Facebook has partnered with Localeze, the local-search company that powers Twitter’s « Places » directory–which lets Twitter users attach a location to their tweets if they are posting from a location-enabled device–to provide a business directory infrastructure for the forthcoming geolocation product.
« We cannot comment on any future deals, however can say that we anticipate having a few significant social announcements in the coming weeks/month, » a Localeze representative told CNET via e-mail.
It should be noted that Facebook also expressed interest in outright acquiring Foursquare, as was well-reported amid the media frenzy over whether Foursquare would raise another round of funding or would sell to a prospective suitor–namely Facebook or Yahoo. (It opted for the venture funding in a round led by venture firm Andreessen Horowitz.) One source told CNET that Facebook offered Foursquare $120 million; Foursquare asked for about 25 percent more than that and Facebook walked away from the negotiations.
There are, of course, complications, which leave the geolocation- and local-services start-up community with plenty of questions about how much of their data they will have to share with Facebook if they tap into the new APIs. And additionally, Facebook’s tendency to garner bad press with regard to privacy may make some of them wary of getting involved.
But it’s likely that they will have little choice. Facebook is the biggest force in the social Web by far, and it’s about to be the biggest force in geolocation, too.